By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The move to the Big East Conference provides instant national credibility to the University of Cincinnati football program as a member of a conference that's affiliated with the Bowl Championship Series.
For a program that has struggled for years to gain acceptance even in its own city, the benefits could be dramatic.
UC football coach Rick Minter makes a statement as the university announced its membership in the Big East Conference.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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"We've said all along that we want to be in a conference with a BCS affiliation," UC coach Rick Minter said. "Because of the location of the schools, this is a natural for us.
"Of all the six major conferences out there, this one is the profile we fit the best."
Along with the higher profile and the chance to play in a major bowl and possibly for a national championship comes the challenge of stiffer competition - on the field and off.
"We need to be able to go head to head with those schools in competition and be able to match up with them in recruiting," Minter said.
Minter said UC's status as a Big East member will open doors that have been closed to the Bearcats as members of the lower-rated Conference USA, which is not a BCS member.
"We have a tremendous opportunity and we're going to take full advantage of it," Minter said. "I liken us a little bit to Virginia Tech. They were a school much like us, a school that made the most out of a tremendous opportunity when they went into the Big East. They took full advantage of it. We look forward to the opportunity to do that."
UC officials also hope playing in the Big East will spark fan interest in the Bearcats program. Instead of schools such as Tulane, Southern Miss, Houston and East Carolina playing at Nippert Stadium, the Bearcats will be rubbing elbows with Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Syracuse, schools that are more familiar to Cincinnati sports fans.
UC also will retain its longstanding rivalry with Louisville, the C-USA football-playing member that will move with UC to the Big East.
How UC stacks up
Cincinnati's all-time records in football and men's basketball against 2005-06 Big East members:
*Non-Division I or non-Big East football member at time of game.
|Team|| Football|| Basketball|
|Seton Hall|| N/A || 4-2|
|Georgetown||0-2 || 0-0|
|St. John's|| N/A|| 2-3|
|Providence|| N/A|| 0-0|
|Villanova||2-2* || 0-1|
|Marquette||6-2* || 21-13|
|Notre Dame||0-1* || 1-3|
|DePaul|| N/A|| 24-9|
|Rutgers||3-6-1 || 6-1|
|Pittsburgh||0-4 || 6-1|
|West Virginia||1-11-1 || 6-4|
UC football history
Ohio Conference, 1910-24
Highlights: UC went 16-9-2 in its first three seasons in the league. The Bearcats were 3-0-2 in 1918.
The scoop: Played mainly schools from Ohio.
Highlights: Champs in '33, '34.
The scoop: Captain of 1933 team was George Smith, who coached the men's basketball team from 1952-60.
Highlights: Legendary coach Sid Gillman led the Bearcats to the 1949 Glass Bowl and 1950 Sun Bowl. They went 10-1 in 1951.
The scoop: UC won five league titles in six years in the MAC before opting for independent status in 1953.
Missouri Valley, 1957-69
Highlights: Greg Cook passed for what was then a school-record 3,272 yards in 1968 and threw 25 TD passes, still a school record. Hank Hartong became college football's first soccer-style kicker in 1961.
The scoop: The Bearcats won league titles in 1963 and '64. They left after the 1969 season to become an independent again.
Highlights: UC broke a 46-year drought when it was invited to play in the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl, where it beat Utah State 35-19. UC won its first conference title since 1964 when it shared the title with TCU in 2002.
The scoop: The football schools from the Metro Conference joined with the football schools from the Great Midwest Conference to form C-USA, giving UC its first football conference affiliation since 1969.
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